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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso - Męstoso CD (album) cover

MĘSTOSO

Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

Eclectic Prog


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Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Way to go! This is Woolly's debut and a little cracker it is too - any fan of early BJH is going to love this. From the opening strains of catchy foot-tapper Sail Away right through to the gentle piano-with-orchestra Waveform, Woolly takes us on a typically eclectic journey encompassing spooky [Quiet Islands], romantic [A Prospect Of Whitby], raunchy [Lives On The Line], stately [Patriots], rocking [Gates Of Heaven], slow burning [American Excess] and a powerful tour-de-force [Męstoso]. All are good in their own way, but there are three obvious stand-outs.

Patriots, with its "we who stand and wait still serve" refrain and conscious nod to Elgar, paints an evocative picture reminiscent of Battle Of Britain [WW2] era British patriotism. A natural corollary to In Search Of England [from BJH XII] it varies from beautifully subtle organ and guitar touches to a rousing chorus. Probably my favourite here, American Excess ("can't buy you peace"), still 26 years later a topical subject, is a wonderful slow burner led by a gently pulsating bass, bluesy guitar and organ touches which prove that, sometimes, less can be more!

Blending orchestral arrangement and band in a mini epic, Męstoso - A Hymn In The Roof Of The World is Woolly's self declared 'magnum opus', a song written originally in the late 1960s and subsequently recorded by BJH but omitted from their album Everyone Is Everybody Else because it was felt to be 'too different'! Lyrically entering Moody Blues territory with an almost simplistic religious call to rise above false patriotism and national separation, it is an adventurous piece full of musical twists and turns from strident opening guitar passages to majestic orchestral themes.

Woolly is known as a keysman, especially Mellotron, but this is a well-rounded and balanced affair. His band are good and tight, almost recreating the 'classic' sound of early BJH with Steve Broomhead's guitar to the fore over Woolly's lush soundscapes - if you like John Lees' early guitar licks you will know what to expect. All in all a wonderful start to what should have been a long and successful career, providing a solid link to Woolly's past and re-establishing his credentials. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Joolz (BETA) | Report this review (#94631)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars After Woolly had left BJH they had great success with "Eyes of the Universe", so expectations were high about Woolly's first solo-outing.

Different to many fans whose opinions I've read, although I'm a Woolly-Fan "Maestoso" was... all in all... a disappointment for me. This may have been due to my expectations ( I thought he'd come up with an album full of stuff like "Sea of Tranquilty", "In Search of England", "Ra" - and he didn't ) but I still feel slightly dissatisfied with the whole album.

Sure, "Patriots" is exactly as great as I had expected, and it's still a favourite. "A Prospect of Whitby", a rather simple song, is very nice and moving, too.

But I think of the rest ( one exception, going to mention it later ) as not quite melodic and mature enough to make me rave about it. Somehow things always seem to start with a good idea but then Woolly doesn't really take it further, like during the composing-process Woolly was impatient or so... well, Quiet islands is an interesting ( strange ) one and "Maesoso ( A hymn in the roof of the world )" isn't bad either ( I prefer the 1974's BJH-version ) but... stuff like "American excess" and "Lives on the Line" surely bears a lack of melodic flush ( and to be "Groovy" or rockin' they are far too tame ), "Gates of Heaven" sounds like "Woolly stripped down" but not to the necessary, rather to make me wonder ( why didn't he take the good basic idea any further ? ).

"Waveform" is very, very good, too, but it took me some time to discover it...

BJH went on with commercial success, increasingly losing that extra-something Woolly was able to give, but Woolly seemed tired here, hastening things, not really hittin' the point so he sadly disappeared for many years to come cause the company ( Polydor ) withdrew faith after the "Maestoso-Flop". ( My review is written for the LP, not CD with Bonus-tracks, still don't have it so I can't say a word about them ! ) The rating is a BARE one, forgive me if you disagree !

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Send comments to rupert (BETA) | Report this review (#94635)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "I'm not saying I was always right, but I had to sail away"

Disillusioned with the direction they seemed set on, Wooly Wolstenholme left Barclay James Harvest in 1979 to follow a solo career. It is fair to say this was not a successful move, with "Męstoso" remaining for many years the sole fruits of his labour available commercially.

While he was a member of the band, Wooly usually wrote and sang on one track per album. Those familiar with those songs should now however expect to hear an album full of similar pieces here. There is certainly "Patriots" (described by Wooly as "quasi- Elgarian") which has the same stately, majestic atmosphere of "In search of England", but the majority of the tracks are upbeat. Indeed it is ironic that, given his reasons for leaving, he should create overtly commercial material such as the catchy "Gates of heaven" and the AOR "Sail away" (lyrically Wooly's "Solisbury hill").

Many of the tracks were either rejected by BJH, or intended by Wooly for potential inclusion on their next album. "American Excess" for example was deemed "too pretentious" by the band. The song is certainly emotive, with a doomy melody, but it stands as a competent and memorable song. The title track was also rejected by the band some years previously, but it is difficult to see why other than perhaps because of it's similarity to songs such as "Beyond the grave".

The album certainly oozes quality, with Steve Broomhead's guitar work providing the perfect counterpoint to Wooly's mellotron and Hammond organ. Wooly's voice is not particularly strong though. When it featured on one or two tracks per album, it came across well. It does not however have the strength to sustain an entire album. That is not to question his signing ability, but the vocals lack sufficient colour for an entire album. To some extent, this aspect is compensated for by the symphonic production which graces this collection, the conclusion to the title track for example being positively regal.

The CD version has two bonus live tracks, sourced from a bootleg of the band performing in Vienna (supporting Saga). By this time, they had taken the name Męstoso, this album being nominally a solo album.

In all, an album which will please those who enjoy the music of Barclay James Harvest. While it will never win any album of the year awards, "Męstoso" deserved far more success than it actually attained.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#119073)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was quite a BJH fan in the mid seventies (from "Everyone" through "Octoberon") and Woolly was known to be the more progressive member of the band. At least, once he left the band after their album "XII" their orientation changed dramatically and they never produced such brilliant music as before.

Expectations were high for me to discover Woolly's solo work : I thought that I would enter the wonderful mellotron world and fine prog music again.

The soft-rock and melodious side of the early BJH si there but sometimes it leads to childish music ("Quiet Islands"). On the contrary "A Prospect Of Whitby" is fully in-line of what I expected : beautiful melody; but Woolly will make the same mistakes as BJH. Trying to produce more rocking number was never a great achievement and it is not "Lives On The Line" that will change my mind.

The best song of this album is undoubtfully "Patriots". Peaceful, melodic it reminds me the mood of "Rā" (from "Octoberon"). Lush, even bombastic keyboards. The melody is poignant. This song is very quiet and beautiful. Like a great BJH song. A nice return in the past.

Woolly will explore the pop register as well with "Gates Of Heaven". It's the proof in the pudding. Les and John were not the only ones to move towards pop songs. This one is gentle and sweet. It won't hurt anyone, but it is far from being a great song.

The second highlight IMO is "American Excess". Again, very quiet and inspired instrumental introduction. Pretty similar structure as "Patriots". The album goes on with nice compositions. "Maestoso, A Hymn In The Roof Of The World" is also brilliant. When Woolly plays BJH. Delicate keyboards and the smooth Woolly's voice are the ingredients. Pompous at times, truely symphonic, varied. I like it very much.

We'll remain in these territories with the closing number "Waveform". A bit too much I would say because the last three numbers are a bit too similar.

This album holds three great songs (half of the album) and several good ones. While BJH was releasing the poor "Eyes Of The Universe ", Woolly definitely produced a far much more interesting album. But commercial success did not follow and Woolly called it quit for a very, very long period of time.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#137348)
Posted Sunday, September 09, 2007 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Męstoso was a long coveted project for Woolly Wolstenholme. His role into BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST was becoming, little by little, too much limited for him to express all his potential. Just think that the title track was originally conceived for the Everyone is Everybody Else album (1974) but it was unfortunately rejected by the other members, by the label owners and productors for its weird structure which went too much far from the band's new refreshed sound. It was rather the most inspired and symphonic prog piece of art ever written by him along with the personal favourite of mine Moonwater. Really intriguing and bombastic.

I think it was a hard blow for Woolly. The damage was done, though, and it wasn't enough what he would have recorded next. Just think to the surreal prog highlight Beyond the Grave (from Time Honoured Ghosts album). The main problem was that the band was going towards more soft prog - AOR territories and, honestly, their musical ideas didn't fit with his musical ambitions. Didn't fit at all.

Paradoxally he left the band in 1979 just when BJH started to benefit of wider commercial success in Germany and in the continental europe. With a newly formed band composed by Steve Broomhead (mandolin and guitars) and Kim Turner (drums, mellotron and percussions) he finally released his ambitious project of an entire solo work. The album is simply superb if you're a fan of the typical and most classic BJH's repertoire. Now it's all more serious, more pompous and free. Atmospheric keyboards, mellotron, organ and moog (from soft and light to dark and pompous) are the miliar stone upon which the whole opus is based on. Guitars, mandolin and drums are all excellently performed. The sound is very near to the typical BJH's music of the Polydor period and the whole thing is the most satisfying record ever released by any BJH member. Way over the top of what the other ex-colleagues were recording at that period (Eyes of the Universe and in 1981 Turn of the Tide). A classic then.

From the more pop-ish tunes Lives on the Line and Gates of Eden (14/18) to the more sophisticate Quiet Islands and Prospect of Whitbi and even to the more adventurous Patriots (a Wolstenholme classic, a must have if you like Sea of Tranquility and In Search of England) and Męstoso itself (A Hymn in the Roof of the World) you will be lead into ethereal and exciting horizons with many sparkling interludes and plentiful orchestral-like arrengements. American Excess is another strong highlight of the album, a more introvert and agry song about the bitter disillusion about the music industry. Slow rythm and very good electric guitar phrasing. Almost perfect. The closer Waveform is a typical closing number with mellow and sad vocals, classic piano and string bass. Very nice too.

The recent remastered edition features the addition of two excellent bonus tracks: the live versions of Even the Night and Has to be a Reason from the next studio album Songs from the Black Box (now also remastered as Black Box Recovered). The latter is particularly good and in my personal opinion better than the studio one. Great performance that night in Vienna! Wish I was there at the time!

A classic and essential record.

4.5

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#165602)
Posted Thursday, April 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars In search of England

Maestoso is Woolly Wolstenholme's first solo album, released just after he had left Barclay James Harvest. In many ways Woolly was the most progressively inclined member of that band and when he left they soon drifted towards more commercial territory (but then again, so did most bands in the 80's). However, there are some commercial sounding songs on this album as well.

Maestoso was originally the name of a song that Woolly had written for Barclay James Harvest but that had been rejected by the band. This song is here and it is hard to see why they rejected it, since it is far better than most late 70's Barclay James Harvest songs. Woolly would later also adopt the name Maestoso for his band.

What we find here are nine songs never straying too far away from Barclay James Harvest territory. Some of the songs, the best ones, are in the style of the material Woolly had written for the band in the 70's, like Beyond The Grave and In Search Of England. Other songs are more towards the style John Lees and Les Holroyd would write in. Melodic, mellow and slightly bombastic. There are also a couple of straight Pop songs like the opening Sail Away.

There are some lovely moments here and overall the album is a good one, but not great. Still, I would say that it is about as good as the better albums by Barclay James Harvest! Recommended for fans of that band. Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso would go on to make much better albums in the present millennium, however.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#214906)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars A talented keyboardist and a founding member of Barclay James Harvest, Stuart John ''Woolly'' Wolstenholme was born in Chadderton, Lancashire in 1947 and produced no less than 9 studio albums with BJH, before quiting dissapointed by the direction the band was taking by late-70's.Woolly formed his own band helped by Mandalaband members Steve Broomhead on guitars and Kim Turner on drums, whom he met during the recording sessions of ''The Eye of Wendor''.Between January and April 1980 Woolly's debut solo album ''Maestoso'' was recorded, eventually released in October of the same year on Polydor.

The album consists either from BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST leftovers or totally new compositions, written by Wolstenholme.While the commercial opener ''Sail away'' will take you by a surprise, being a light rock ballad in a SUPERTRAMP vein (along with ''Lives on the line''), the rest of the album flows in a familiar BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST style, for which Wolstenholme was known by throwing all these emotional keyboard sounds.Incredible artistic calm rockers and beautiful orchestral mini prog suites are the main styles met throughout the listening, always having Wolstenholme's keyboard work on the forefront, and based also on the delicate vocal arrangements.His collaboration with Broomhead's electric guitars reminds often of his days with John Lees, fine and smooth touch on the chords with some nice solos here and there along with good keyboard runs.''Patriots'' and the title track are great highlights, old-school Orchestral Prog in a typical BARCLAY HARVEST JAMES and even GENESIS vein, including Classical-influenced keyboards and atmospheres along with great vocals and mellow electric guitars, producing though a more than grandiose atmosphere.

The Eclectic CD reissue contains also a couple of live tracks originally intended for the second album of Wolstenholme, recorded in Vienna in February 82'.These come in a more straight rock vein but always with a great qualitive value, seeing the fully renamed Maestoso band performing in full energy and power and delivering some catchy but amazingly well- crafted musicianship, both deserve the addition in this excellent reissue.

''Maestoso'' is a great tribute by Woolstenholme to this unique BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST sound, which seemed to fade away for good by late-70's.Smooth orchestral Progressive/Art Rock filled both with dramatic and romantic moments.Warmly recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#609628)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2012 | Review Permalink

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